Digital discussion: a qualitative study of online discussion in writing classes
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This dissertation examined the online discussions in five writing classes, two technical writing, two composition, and one creative writing. The purpose of the analysis was to determine effective ways for teachers to manage interaction in the digital environment. A five-part coding system was used in the first part of the analysis, and then two additional methods were used to contextualize the coding data. The assumptions underlying the coding system came from a long tradition of research into the traditional, whole class discussion. Results of this part of the analysis indicated that researchers should not pursue projects that analyze the digital environment using methods derived from research into the face-to-face classroom. Two many differences exist between the environments to make such methods useful. For example, turn-taking is not a factor in the digital environment, while managing turn-taking in the face-to-face classroom is an essential role of the teacher. Results of the additional two methods included common sense data. For example, teachers should seed online discussions with open-ended questions; they should highlight important issues while the discussion is taking place, and they should make students comfortable enough to participate freely.